Keeping Up With the Hugos, 4/20/15

Hey, look, I’m home! Finally I’ll have a Hugo post whose comment thread I’ll be around to moderate. So let me present some not-terribly-organized thoughts on the current state of things (if you missed my previous Hugo-related posts on Whatever, they are here, here and here; also, File770 is doing a fine job keeping up with all the latest on the Hugos):

* I probably shouldn’t admit that I’m having a schadenfreudilicious time watching Larry Correia and Brad Torgersen now desperately try to put sunlight between themselves and that toxic bigot Vox Day, but I’m not going to lie: I am, and also, it’s not working for them at all, as there is a fairly obvious evidence trail to suggest there was hardly any sunlight between them until Day suddenly became inconvenient. Correia and Torgersen are two guys who brought an arsonist to a party, and when the arsonist started setting fires — as arsonists are known to do! — they tried to argue, while the flames rose around them, that they were not actually complicit in burning down the house. The time to disassociate themselves from Day would have been two years ago, before Correia, in a fit of unfathomable stupidity, decided that bruiting both Day and his interminably mediocre story as Hugo-worthy, and palling about with the fellow online, wouldn’t come back to bite him square on the ass.

My own supposition as to why neither Torgersen nor Correia realized what a bad idea it was to beclown themselves with Day’s company is that the two of them were, simply, too naive to think that the enemy of their enemy (i.e., the non-existent social justice warrior conspiracy designed to keep fun stories and/or conservative writers from the Hugo ballot) could be anything other than their friend. Certainly Mr. Day would validate their conspiritorial world view — hadn’t he just been kicked out of SFWA merely for expressing an opinion unpopular with the SJWs, and not at all because of his own actions? — and when he’s not performing for the crowd (that is, the Internet) or talking about something that specifically touches on his own expansive set of bigotries, Day is a perfectly lucid person.

He’s a fine con man, in other words, and Correia and Torgersen fell for his con. Day was looking for a way back into relevance in science fiction and fantasy and they very happily gave it to him, and didn’t realize until after the Hugo awards were actually announced, and the backlash against the slates in full force, just how thoroughly they had been played. Torgersen delirously announced after the Hugos came out that the Puppies had “stolen the Enterprise”; he wasn’t aware that he and Correia were the redshirts in that scenario, or just how much and how closely the two of them would then be associated with Day’s feculent character and actions.

Well, now they know. At this point Correia and Torgersen have to decide whether they want to be known either as Day’s fellow travelers, or his useful idiots. Or both! It could be both. Neither of these options makes them look good; nor, obviously, fits with their own self-image of being Brave Men Fighting the Good Fight™. But in fact, they aren’t fighting a good fight, and in fact, they got played. So: Fellow travelers or useful idiots. These are the choices.

* Also, can we please now stop pretending that this whole Puppy nonsense began for any other reason than that once upon a time, Larry Correia thought he was going to win an award and was super pissed he didn’t, and decided that the reason he didn’t had to be a terrible, awful conspiracy against people just like him (a conservative! Writing “fun” fiction!), as opposed to, oh, the voters deciding they just plain liked something and someone else better? Can we stop pretending that a fellow who practically begs people to nominate his work three years running, hiding the begging behind an oh-so-thin veil of “let’s stick it to the SJWs!” doesn’t desperately crave the external validation that he thinks the award will bring? Can we stop pretending that this is anything other than a grown up child stomping his feet, screaming look at me, look at me, loooook at meeeeee? Because, come on, folks. We’re well past the point of genteel here. Let’s call it for what it is.

(And yes, I know, Correia declined his nomination for the Hugo this year. Let’s talk about that for a minute, shall we. It takes a very special sort of fellow to allow himself to be on a slate to get nominated, marshal people to nominate him for the award as part of a slate, and then decline — and write a big ol’ puffed-up piece about why he was declining, social justice warriors, blows against the empire, blah blah blah, yadda yadda. Yes, nice he declined the nomination and let someone else on the ballot. But it’s a little like wanting credit for rescuing a baby squirrel when you knocked the baby squirrel out of the tree to begin with.)

To be clear, the Puppy nonsense now isn’t just about Correia really really really wanting validation in the form of a rocketship; Day’s stealing the Puppy movement right out from under Correia and Torgerson has changed things up quite a bit, and it’s certainly true at this point that this little campaign is about a bunch of people trying to shit in the punchbowl so no one else can have any punch. But at the beginning, it was Correia hurt and angry that someone else got an award he thought was his, and deciding that it was stolen from him, rather than being something that was never his to begin with. And I’m sorry for him that it didn’t go his way. But actual grown human beings deal with disappointment in ways other than Correia has.

Correia can bluster about this all he likes; he’s a lovely online bully, and certainly he wishes to project that he’s a Tough Guy Saying Tough Things, Toughly™. But, eh. If he was actually who he wishes he could project himself as, the Sad Puppy thing would have never happened. And, ironically, he would be better positioned to win the awards he craved, because he wouldn’t be seen as a petulant whiner about such things. As it is, all we can do for him now is let him show us on the cartoon face pain chart how much Worldcon hurt him, and offer him soothing hugs until all his pain goes away.

* I notice that Vox Day has been enjoying his moment, and has taken to making pronouncements along the line of “award this slate of things I managed to push onto the ballot or GOD HELP ME I WILL DESTROY THE HUGOS FOREVER BWA HA HA HAH HA HA.” Because that’s the sort of asshole shitbug of human he is.

So, a couple of things to know about Vox Day. One, he’s the sort of person for whom any scenario will be seen as a victory condition; if he were to be set on fire and pushed in front of a speeding train, he would cackle about how this was exactly what he had planned right up until the moment of impact turned him into flaming bits of kibble. So obviously he’s going to babble on about how he plans to destroy the Hugos forever if he doesn’t get his way. Why wouldn’t he. That’s a victory condition! Plus, he’s getting attention. In the grand pantheon of People Acting Like Children About the Hugos, he’s the Grand Baby, and attention is what he wants.

Two: Fuck that dude. If everything is a victory condition for him — and it is — then worrying about what he’s going to do is sort of pointless. What is he going to do? Why, declare victory! Regardless! So you might as well do what you want. And if that means voting “No Award” in the categories where there are only Puppy nominees, then by all means follow your joy. Yes, he’ll say that’s what he planned all along. You could open a can of peas and he would maintain that you’re doing exactly what he wanted. He wants you to see him as a mastermind, rather than as a general failure whose only successes lie in being terrible to other people, and encouraging others to be the same.

So, yeah. Ignore his shtick; focus on your thing, as it involves the Hugos.

* Many people are convinced this is The End of the Hugos. Guys, no. It’s really not, and if I may say so, running around as if one’s hair is on fire about it, as satisfying as it is in the short term, isn’t going to be useful — and besides gives the Puppies their glee, which is a thing I don’t think they should have. I am not saying that you shouldn’t feel angry, or upset, or exasperated, or whatever you feel. Feel that! Own that! Be that! And also, decide to do something about it.

First, by voting for the Hugos this year. There are some very good reasons to “no award” everything that’s on a Puppy slate, including entire categories — I understand Brad Torgersen is suggesting anyone who does so is a gigantic asshole, but at this particular moment in time, and given how he’s just been played by Vox Day, he should probably not be declaring anyone else an asshole, lest that mirror be put up to him — but there are also reasons not to, and you’ll have to decide for yourself the best course of action. But that starts with voting, which one can do with a supporting membership to Sasquan.

Second, by deciding to be part of the conversation about what to do with the Hugos from here on out, which may or may not include tweaking the award rules to better handle slates (which are a bad idea) and obvious block voting (which is not good either). I should note that I’m not personally entirely convinced a wholesale change in voting rules is needed, because to some extent I see this as self-correcting — honestly, after this year, would anyone want to be on a slate, much less a Puppy slate? Who wants that sort of asterisk on their Hugo? — but it’s a conversation to have. Specifically, it’s a conversation to have at the WSFS business meeting, which will take place at this year’s Worldcon, Sasquan.

Third, by understanding that this is a process, and it will take time. If a rule change is proposed at Sasquan and then passed, it has to be affirmed at the next Worldcon (in Kansas City) and then it will take effect the year after. Which means we may have at least another year of potential mischief along this line. Accept that this is a fact, be ready to deal with it (preferably with an eyeroll and the appropriate voting action), and recognize that the Hugos survive — or don’t — based on what the community around them decides to do. You can be part of that community. It takes effort and a bit of commitment. The good news is, there’s more to that community you’ll be part of than just the Hugos. And it’s a good community to be part of.

* Finally, on the subject of slates, for the avoidance of doubt, here’s my own personal position: I won’t ask to be put on a slate of nominees for a Hugo; If asked to be on a slate of nominees for a Hugo, I will refuse; If you see my name on a slate of nominees for the Hugo, you may assume I neither asked nor consented to be on that slate. I am fine with people recommending my work to others for consideration; I am not fine with people saying “vote this slate to get our nominees on the ballot for reasons.”

To be blunt about it, I don’t need to be on a slate — In my experience people have voted for me, or not, because they liked my work (or didn’t). Silly mutterings of conspiracy aside, everything of mine that’s been on the Hugo ballot got there under its own steam, by someone genuinely liking it and deciding to give it a slot on their nomination list. I’m proud of that; I wouldn’t want a work of mine on the final Hugo ballot (or any other ballot, for that matter) for any other reason.

I’m also opposed to slates in general — or in the case of the Sad Puppy slate, a weasely list of “recommendations” that had in their categories the number of slots as there are on the Hugo nomination list, nod, wink, nod — because, here’s a wacky idea, I think the point of popular awards is for people to vote for the things they actually like, not a slate designed to achieve some sort of political or social point (or, in the case of the Rabid Puppy slate, exist as advertisement for the slate-builder’s hobby-horse of a publishing house). Also, to be blunt, I don’t trust anyone else’s taste. I may or may not have terrible taste in science fiction and fantasy, but it’s my taste, and I’ll vote it.

In short: I don’t do slates — won’t voluntarily be on them, and won’t vote for them. And I’m not going to lie, from here on out, as regards the Hugos, I’ll think less of you if you participate on or vote for a slate. Because what you’re doing is showing that you don’t actually care about what the Hugos are (an award that acts as a snapshot, however imperfect, of the current state of science fiction and fantasy), but rather what the Hugos can do (draw attention to your own work, politics, social thoughts or whatever). The thing is, the latter happens because of the former. And that only happens when people vote their own nominees, not anyone else’s.